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Newmarket council supports proposed rental apartments on Yonge

'We decided to pursue this project to help people live with dignity and respect because the best thing to do is to put a roof on top of the heads of people,' says Coptic Church father

Newmarket’s Yonge Street could see 60 affordable housing units and council expressed excitement about the proposal to make that happen.

The town held a public hearing earlier today for the rental apartment complex from the St. Maurice & St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church and Trinity Coptic Foundation. The proposal would be for 201 units plus commercial space for a medical centre at 17175 Yonge St. 

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said council members are usually more reserved, but they are excited by the proposition.

“We know the pressure in our community. I have people come to my office virtually every month now in tears talking about how they think they’re going to be homeless very soon,” he said. “We got to stop and celebrate the good moments when we see some progress. Thank you for being here and we look forward to working with you.” 

The proposal has been in the works since 2022. It would have 224 underground parking spaces, with the building being 10 storeys. Besides the affordable units, the remaining units would be market-rate to offset the cost of those affordable units, according to developers.

Father Pishoy Salama recounted how this project is inspired by his time studying abroad and his desire to help those in need. 

“We decided to pursue this project to help people live with dignity and respect because the best thing to do is to put a roof on top of the heads of people,” he said, adding that the Coptic community is “here to contribute to the society, the community, the well-being of the people.” 

Councillors supported the proposal, though no decisions about the proposal's future were made at the public hearing itself.

“I, for one, wanted to thank you for being creative and innovative,” Councillor Bob Kwapis said. “Putting a roof over somebody’s head is a basic need … I look forward to seeing this come through.” 

No residents formally spoke to the proposal during the hearing, but council did receive correspondence. Milford Developments Limited, owners of an adjacent 55 Eagle St. property, said they are generally satisfied with it. However, the company said that permanent groundwater dewatering recommended for the underground parking structure should not be allowable, potentially amounting to 40,000 litres per day into the sanitary system.

“There is a cost to treat wastewater and there is a cost to build the infrastructure to convey it; both are constrained,” Milford said. “The intent of inflow and infiltration reduction programs is to reduce those costs and maximize the amount of serviceable units – this is essential to the Town of Newmarket. For those reasons, we would like to see a different alternative.”

Resident Lee Web wrote in to praise the proposal.

“Coptic’s plan is terrific. Although all housing helps, below-market housing is especially important right now given the astronomical highs that ‘market rent’ currently sits at,” Webb said. “It is absolutely the type of housing with need right now.”

Director of planning Jason Unger said staff would work with the proposal to address comments received before it comes back to council sometime in the future.